Are you “likable”?

I was reading a theory proposed by Princeton University psychologists and their colleagues that people judge others based on their warmth and competence.

If we graphed this, with warmth becoming stronger as it moves to the right, and Competence getting stronger as it moves up, you end up with four extremes, as noted below.

Low Warmth >>>>>>        >>>>>> High Warmth
High Competence             High Competence
^ ^                                       ^ ^
^ ^                                       ^ ^
Low Competence           Low Competence
Low Warmth >>>>>>        >>>>>> High Warmth


This was a study in stereotypes.  Into the four established categories, they noted certain generalizations for these groups:

Low Warmth, Low Competence
Contemptuous prejudice
Low status, competitive
Contempt, disgust, anger, resentment
(e.g., welfare recipients, poor people)

Low Warmth, High Competence
Envious prejudice
High status, competitive Envy, jealousy
(e.g., Asians, Jews, rich people, feminists)

High Warmth, Low Competence
Low status, not competitive
Pity, sympathy
(e.g., elderly people, disabled people, housewives)

High Warmth, High Competence
High status, not competitive
Pride, admiration
(e.g., in-group, close allie)

The theory suggests that simply be warm and friendly is not sufficient to make you likable.  It also suggests that being good at what you do, is also not sufficient to make you likable.

Being on the fast track for career advancement, or being on the “inside” of a group you wish to be a member of, requires that you develop both your warmth and your competence.

What lead me to reading that paper?  It was an article published by Maggie Zhang and update by Shana Lebowitz in Business Insider.  It was such a good article, I wanted to capture some of the key points in my own personal Cliffs notes.  I think I already knew most of this intuitively.  Nice to see it validated with research.

How to make people like you..
( Summary version )

Wining at love
I have long maintained that to be a good lover, you must be a mirror.  Now a study indicates that when one person “mirrors” the behavior of a partner, they were found to be more likeable.  Don’t be needy.  Give as you receive.   Be an unhurried reflection of the behaviors that come to you, and you invite others to spend more time with you.

Making time to be important
This should be a no-brainer, since the most valuable thing you can give another person is your time.  That being said, research confirms that your potential for likeability goes up when you give more time for interaction.

Compliment people
I have long witnessed that successful people compliment others.  This creates spontaneous trait transference. If you describe someone else as genuine and kind, people will also associate you with those qualities. The reverse is also true: If you are constantly trashing people behind their backs, your friends will start to associate the negative qualities with you as well.

Be positive 
Emotions are contagious.  To create a positive environment, start by being a positive person.

Be human
According to the pratfall effect, people will like you more after you make a mistake – but only if they believe you are a competent person. Revealing that you aren’t perfect makes you more vulnerable, which makes people around you relate better.

Touch is huge. Subliminal touching occurs when you touch a person so subtly that they barely notice. Common examples include tapping someone’s back or touching their arm, which can make them feel more warmly toward you. Want to know if you are getting along with someone?  Touch them.  Want to get personal with someone?  Be likable, get in close, and touch in a non-sexual way.. say a pat on the shoulder, or just about the elbow.  You are making progress if the person doesn’t pull back. Be aware of the response to your touch.

A smile broadcasts your mood.  Moods are contagious. Spread the good vibes and you become more likable.

Validate beliefs
Compliments are just the first part of something more important.  We all seek confirmations of our views, positive or negative.  There is a theory called self-verification.  Keep in mind that you don’t have to agree, to validate.

We all know honesty is important in a relationship.  But how do we know if a person can be trusted with our secrets?   You can’t know until you try a more meaningful conversation.  The process of becoming more comfortable with personal questions and answers gives us a stronger sense of closeness.

Be trustworthy 
After disclosure we must prove trustworthiness. “Trustworthiness is comprised of several components, including honesty, dependability, and loyalty, and while each is important to successful relationships, honesty and dependability have been identified as the most vital in the realm of friendships.”   (Suzanne Degges-White-Northern Illinois University)

A sense of humor is critical to being likable.   The root of humor is a sharing of things that are embarrassing, painful, or difficult in a way that makes light of it.  Humor is a tool that cuts through the difficult things in life.   This is why everyone gravitates to people with a sense of humor.

Listen more 
Take time to listen.  Don’t do all the talking.  Researchers using fMRI machine showed that the brain regions associated with motivation and reward were most active when participants were sharing information publicly – but also were active when they were talking about themselves without anyone listening.

Like people in general. 
Psychologists have known for a while about a phenomenon called “reciprocity of liking”: When we think someone likes us, we tend to like them as well.  Even if you’re not sure how a person you’re interacting with feels about you, act like you like them and they’ll probably like you back.   A word of caution.  People will know if you are faking it.  Develop in yourself a genuine love for other people, and work from there.

The problem 
The problem with all this is, it is a formula.  It is a cold scientific way of approaching relations.  To be successful at it, you either need to keep all this in your head and constantly refer to it as you interact with people. OR you need to develop your personality to the point where all this is natural.  I suggest the latter choice.  Focus on one improvement at a time, until it comes naturally to you.

For additional details and reference go here: Business Insider article





3 thoughts on “Are you “likable”?

  1. Super informative. Great concepts for me to consider as school starts tomorrow. Thanks so much for sharing.

    I can attest to the listening more section. This used to me one of my greatest faults and my relationships across the board have improved so much since I started to address it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ha! A trait of intelligence and Dominance if ever there was one. I thought of mentioning that was a weakness of mine as well. I have little reminders all around me to not be so verbose, yet I am still working on this weakness. ( See rule four, of the 48 rules of power. )

    My natural instinct is to believe people are not listening, don’t understand, and\or are rushing to get something done without regard to quality. I have learned to overcome this fear by doing this

    1) Keep direction short.
    2) Ask if your direction is understood
    3) Eliminate or avoid those that make mistakes by not asking for required clarification.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s